The father of one of the women killed in last month's Cutchogue limousine crash has filed notice that he intends to sue Suffolk County and the Town of Southold, holding them partly responsible for failing to prohibit U-turns by oversized vehicles.
The notice of claim, filed Wednesday by Steven Baruch, the father of Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown, says the town and the county knew limos and buses struggled to make U-turns at the intersection of Depot Road and county Route 48, a divided road with a 55-mph speed limit.
"This was just waiting to happen," Robert Sullivan, the Garden City attorney for Steven Baruch, said of the crash.EditorialEditorial: Limo tragedy shows we need to get seriousStoryVigil to be held for women killed in limo crashSee alsoComplete coverage
Sullivan noted that neighbors of the crash site had publicly described the intersection as a dangerous place for limos to make U-turns, and that a county traffic study had concluded a traffic light was needed there. Town police reported ticketing 10 to 12 limo drivers every month for improper U-turns in that area.
Sullivan said Baruch's parents are devastated by their daughter's death.
"It's a nightmare," he said. "They'll suffer with that every day until they go to their own graves."
One lawsuit has already been filed against both drivers by survivor Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn.
Baruch and three of her friends were killed July 18 when the limo, driven by Carlos Pino, 58, of Bethpage, was making a U-turn and was hit by a pickup driven by Steven Romeo, 55, of Southold. Romeo was charged with driving while intoxicated afterward, but a chemical test later showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.066 percent -- under the legal threshold of 0.08 percent.
Sullivan said an eventual lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Suffolk will also name both drivers as defendants, but he said of all the parties, Romeo is probably the least blameworthy.
"The rush to blame the whole thing on the pickup truck driver was wrong," Sullivan said. Prosecutors have said one witness told police that Romeo's pickup was visible before the limo turned in front of it. Pino told police he never saw the pickup.
"I feel the limo driver is much more responsible than the pickup driver," Sullivan said. "Even cold sober, I doubt Mario Andretti could have avoided the limo."
Southold Town Attorney Bill Duffy, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County and the district attorney's office all declined to comment.
Pino could not be reached for comment. Romeo's attorney, Daniel O'Brien of Smithtown, did not respond to requests for comment.